Premature evacuations offend spirits of the place

Here on my eight-floor balcony, watching the sun retire across the river to the west, I can almost hear the waters advancing from Saphan Kwai. Or is that merely the kerfuffle of conflicting rumor? For weeks, here in Phya Thai District, we’ve awaited the floods from the north as they advance with glacial alacrity. One of the many rumors, inconsistently promulgated by government officials, was that we might well be spared altogether.

Ultimately, though, it seems the hi-so spirits of the place have been insufficiently propitiated. Or perhaps too many of the locals have succumbed to premature evacution (current phrase, not my coinage), their lack of faith offending our spiritual guardians. Because last night and this morning, Twittish wisdom had the flood arriving in front of Big C at Saphan Kwai. Since, however, we’ve been given to understand that this was not the flood proper, but only prophylactic pumping of the drains, and that the area is dry again.

Nevertheless, the inexorable tide of umpteen zillion Olympic swimming pools equivalent, the standard measure du jour, continues its near-imperceptible rush towards us. As it has been doing for weeks.

I’ve decided never, for any reason, to look at the Twitter feed again. Gossip is always a powerful stimulant, but in time of crisis Twitter is crack cocaine. In the good old days, people would just get on with life and, if a giant flood appeared, they’d say, whoa, a flood, and deal with it. When it passed, they’d get back to other matters.

Of course all that’s easy enough for me to say, still safe and air-conditioned in my apartment as I make guacamole, croques monsieur and salad with which to surprise Sara when she gets home from work already heartened by thoughts of that half bottle of wine in the fridge. Only a few kilometers from us, meanwhile, large numbers of people are suffering abject misery. (I fear that us relatively privileged folk hereabouts will suffer our real crisis only after the floods have abated, and the social, political and economic fallout hits us.)

Of course there’s every reason to believe our neighborhood will finally indeed be flooded within days. Though how deeply and for how long is anybody’s guess. If you want considered opinions ranging from no flood at all to 10-12cm to 1.5m standing from a few hours to a few weeks, consult #thaifloodeng, an amazing confluence in itself of observation and information from every source imaginable. Everything you need to know from subduing feral crocodiles in black water to whether the reported invasion of green mambas is for real or a hoax, from how to safely test standing water for electric current to how to volunteer for relief efforts.


Here are more standout photos of the flooding in Thailand from The Atlantic and the Boston Globe.

A graphic representation from Japan showing, as of 27 October, the Great Flood Monster about to gobble up Phya Thai District and other parts of so-far untouchable “inner Bangkok.” (The situation has become even direr since then, of course.)

People often respond to disaster with great good spirit and imagination. Here’s a motorcycle modified for underwater excursions.

For more on the respective powers of myth and science in flood control, see the latest posting on Somtow’s World.

First photo (above): “A resident pulls her belongings as she wades through her flooded neighborhood in Thon Buri outside Bangkok on October 28, 2011.” (Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters) From the Boston Globe.

Second photo “Children play in a flooded street in Sena district, Ayutthaya province, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Bangkok, on September 12, 2011…” (Reuters/Sukree Sukplang) From The Atlantic.